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Gordon Paris to be first witness in Conrad Black trial

Globe and Mail Update

CHICAGO — Conrad Black will come face to face with the man who replaced him as chief executive officer of Hollinger International Inc. next week when his trial formally begins.

Prosecutors confirmed Tuesday that Gordon Paris will be the first witness after opening arguments in the case conclude, likely Monday. Jury selection is to begin on Wednesday in Chicago.

Mr. Paris, 53, is the former investment banker who took over as Hollinger's CEO in November, 2003, after Lord Black resigned amid a flurry of allegations.

As CEO, Mr. Paris co-ordinated a massive internal probe at Hollinger that resulted in a 500-page report released in August, 2004. That report labelled Hollinger a "corporate kleptocracy" under Lord Black and has formed the basis for a huge civil suit against the former media baron. Lord Black has denied the allegations and countersued.

Mr. Paris stepped down as Hollinger's CEO last December. During his tenure he came under fire for his salary, which totalled $2-million (U.S.) annually, and his $2.7-million severance. Mr. Paris streamlined Hollinger substantially by selling off most of its newspapers. He also changed the company's name to Sun-Times Media Group Inc., reflecting its ownership of the Chicago Sun-Times, the last major newspaper held by the company.

At the time of the name change, Mr. Paris told analysts: "The overhang of the Hollinger name on our operations has not been good and continues not to be good."

Mr. Paris is expected to testify about the internal probe at Hollinger, but he is expected to be on the stand only for a couple of hours. Prosecutors have not said whom they plan to call next.

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